A week of wonderful websites: Day 5 – the final frontier

6 December 2013

Today, I bring you…. The World Factbook. Originally published semi-annually (until 1980) as the National Basic Intelligence Factbook, county entries included sections on Land, Water, People, Government, Economy, Communications, and Defense Forces. In 1981, the publication became annually produced and was renamed The World Factbook with a total of 165 nations covered on 225 pages. Over the following two decades, various changes have been made with perhaps the most important one being in 1997 when it was first made available on the Internet.

The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. The Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, a World Oceans map, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map. A timeline of the history of the Factbook is available online with the size of the printed 50th anniversary edition of the Factbook reaching 847 pages.

Many family and local historians focus their research on communities rather the countries but this Factbook is simply unmissable, particularly the People and Society section. For example – who knew that the life expectancy at birth in the Cook Islands is 75.15 years, compared to 80.29 years in the United Kingdom? And we have 2.765 physicians per 1,000 people compared to 1.76 in Brazil and 0.758 in South Africa…. so no more complaints about the National Health Service in the UK!! Each country page – or world entity page as the Factbook calls them – provides photographs of the place. Some have many more than others of course but all are in the public domain and copyright free.

Hurrah – hope you had nothing planned for this weekend!

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